Studying away is a privilege, not a right

Posted on May 2 2014 - 2:14pm by Leah Traxel

Before I decided to go to Pacific Lutheran University, I learned about all the adventures and study away opportunities available to students. The programs at PLU are top-notch too. In 2009, PLU won a national award for its study away programs, and it frequently lands in the top 10 on lists like the one from the Institute for International Education. PLU was the first university to have students abroad on all seven continents simultaneously.

However, about 50 percent of PLU students don’t study away during their time at PLU. Sometimes this is because of course schedules, or maybe they have extracurricular activities or jobs that require they stay.  For me, the combination of cost, time and the lack of options that really fit my schedule led me to stay on campus for all four years.

Realizing as a senior that I won’t be able to take advantage of these trips is a bit of a disappointment. One of the reasons I was so excited to come to PLU was for the travel opportunities.  However, what I’ve also come to love about PLU is that the emphasis on global education permeates every level of the university, from physical trips, programming and entertainment to coursework.

Even though I wasn’t able to pick up and go to a country to experience another culture firsthand, I was still exposed to these new ideas that taught me to value cultural differences and practices. In an even bigger way, PLU recognizes traveling and studying abroad is a privilege, not a right. Besides the financial burden of traveling abroad, there is a level of environmental privilege as well, and PLU is trying to proactively offset the carbon and other environmental footprints of its programs.

Ideally, yes I would be able to travel the world and experience things firsthand.  However, when that isn’t an option, PLU does a pretty good job of making sure I’m not missing out entirely, and it gave me the skills and sensitivity to make my way into that big world to experience it on my own.